European Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 9th December 2008.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 5:17 pm, 9th December 2008

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that if there were a referendum, I would argue for a yes vote, so his conclusions are bizarre.

Let me move on to discuss some of the external relations issues that will be debated at the forthcoming summit. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks rightly talked about Zimbabwe, and I agree with many of his remarks. We welcome the tighter EU sanctions announced earlier this week. I share the Foreign Secretary's concern that Russia and China might still be a block for a future resolution at the UN Security Council. I understand that Britain is keen to go to the Security Council to seek another resolution. That has certainly appeared in the press, although I see the Foreign Secretary shaking his head, so perhaps the Minister for Europe will clarify the matter later.

I hope that Britain and France would not be the only countries arguing for another UN resolution to get better international action on Zimbabwe. We should ask the EU High Representative to join us at the table to argue in favour of such a resolution, and particularly for a referral of Mugabe and a number of those in the ZANU-PF leadership to the International Criminal Court if they failed to leave office within a stated period. We must use the law as a mechanism to force Mugabe out, perhaps by telling Mugabe and his henchmen, "If you do not leave power in the next three to six months, we will harry you for the rest of your lives with a warrant to arrest and prosecute you." We all know that we cannot do that without a UN Security Council resolution, because Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the ICC treaty. It is important for us to try to persuade Russia and China to go down the legal route of trying to remove Mugabe.

I want to reiterate a point that I made earlier when I intervened on the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks—a point about the importance of giving the right to work to Zimbabwean asylum seekers. I believe it is absolutely scandalous that British politicians stand up, wring their hands about how dreadful Mugabe is and say that we are relatively powerless if South Africa and others do not act, when they themselves refuse to act for those Zimbabweans who are here and whom we know we can help today and tomorrow and until they are able to return home. Liberal Democrat Members will thus challenge both Government and Conservative Members on how serious they really are about helping Zimbabwe in the future; if they are not prepared to help even the Zimbabweans who are living here, their words are, frankly, meaningless.

Another issue that I hope the summit will deal with is whether the EU should send forces to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have debated the matter in exchanges during Foreign and Commonwealth questions. On the last such occasion, the Foreign Secretary effectively told me, "No, that is not the right thing to do; we need a single command structure under MONUC—the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo." I was told that I was completely wrong and that the Belgians and Dutch supported his idea.

I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary is wrong. We could have an EU force in the DRC with a separate command structure that relates to MONUC, as we did in 2003 under Operation Artemis—that is perfectly feasible and he knows it. Furthermore, as I understand it, earlier this week, the Belgians, Dutch, Finns and Swedes were arguing in favour of an EU deployment. Not only that, but the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon was also asking the EU for such a deployment. The people who head the MONUC mission want EU troops now. It may be great news that the UN has sanctioned another 3,000 troops for MONUC, but we all know, despite the letters from the Prime Minister to a number of countries around the world, that those troops will take some time to arrive. Estimates vary from four to six months. During that period, the EU should send our troops to defend people in this really difficult time, as there could be a massive humanitarian crisis if we fail to act.

I call on the Government to change their mind on that. We have a chance on Thursday and Friday to change the position. If the Foreign Secretary made such a change, he would have our total support, and I hope we could then work with our EU colleagues on securing such a solution. I think that that would strengthen the work being done on a political solution for the east of Congo.

There are a number of other countries that I could rattle through, but we shall probably deal with them tomorrow. However, I want to touch on Russia, because it has formed part of the debate. I particularly want to discuss the invasion of Georgia and the South Ossetian crisis. I think that both Conservative Front Benchers and the Government got it wrong back in the summer, when they argued for early and accelerated NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.

There seems to be some shaking of heads, but there are quotations that I could bandy about. For example, the Foreign Secretary told The Guardian on 20 August that

"the formal process" towards NATO membership

"kicked off yesterday with the establishment of a Nato-Georgia commission".

For the first time, he said, there was a process for membership. The implication of what both he and the leader of the Conservative party were saying was that they wanted to fast-track that process, which I believe would have been a disaster then and would be a disaster now. It sends all the wrong messages. That does not mean that we should allow Russia to have a veto; the issue is whether it makes sense for Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO now, and whether we should sign a treaty with them in the context of article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty. I believe that that would be completely absurd. I really do not understand the position of either the Government or the Conservatives: I think that that position is deeply reckless.

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